Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. St. Petersburg

Search begins for grave sites at Tropicana Field parking lots in St. Petersburg

The city will spend about two weeks scanning for human remains west of the stadium.
Rebecca O’Sullivan, the senior archaeologist at Cardno, uses ground-penetrating radar to take an initial scan for unmarked graves under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26. The work is expected to take some time, including the use of more sophisticated radar technology next week,
Rebecca O’Sullivan, the senior archaeologist at Cardno, uses ground-penetrating radar to take an initial scan for unmarked graves under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26. The work is expected to take some time, including the use of more sophisticated radar technology next week, [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 26
Updated Mar. 27

A crew hired by the city of St. Petersburg has begun scanning land near Tropicana Field in search of lost grave sites, a potential sticking point that could affect redevelopment of the 86-acre site.

Archaeologists with the Riverview company Cardno this week started using ground penetrating radar to probe land in parking lots 1 and 2 west of Tropicana Field, near a COVID-19 testing site, to look for skeletal remains on the former site of Oaklawn Cemetery.

Oaklawn opened in 1900 near two other cemeteries. All three were later closed, and hundreds of graves were eventually exhumed and moved elsewhere, although some remains have since been found during various construction projects. Oaklawn housed both Black and white bodies in segregated sections.

Related: Are there graves under Tropicana Field parking lots? Archaeologists want to find out

Surveying the land is one of the earliest actions the city can take as it prepares for a decade-long redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site. Mayor Rick Kriseman has picked a shortlist of four finalist proposals that, per the city’s request, were charged with envisioning the growth of a massive tract of land while navigating sensitives surrounding the future of the Tampa Bay Rays and the history of the site, which before the stadium came along was a hub of Black life in St. Petersburg.

Archeologists Erin McKendry, left, and Rebecca O’Sullivan review information on the ground-penetrating radar machine they’re using to take an initial scan under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26.
Archeologists Erin McKendry, left, and Rebecca O’Sullivan review information on the ground-penetrating radar machine they’re using to take an initial scan under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Related: In Tropicana Field debate, St. Petersburg City Council asks: Where are the Rays?

Derek Kilborn, manager of the city’s urban planning and historic preservation division, said crews on Monday would begin a larger scan of the area using a tow-behind radar device. Archaeologists would be on site daily from around 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., he said.

Rebecca O’Sullivan, the senior archaeologist at Cardno, uses ground-penetrating radar to take an initial scan for unmarked graves under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26. The work is expected to take some time, including the use of more sophisticated radar technology next week,
Rebecca O’Sullivan, the senior archaeologist at Cardno, uses ground-penetrating radar to take an initial scan for unmarked graves under a section of land at a Tropicana Field parking lot on March 26. The work is expected to take some time, including the use of more sophisticated radar technology next week, [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

It’s not yet clear how any remaining graves would affect the redevelopment of the Trop site or its timeline. The cemetery would be the latest forgotten or partially-exhumed grave site to be discovered in the Tampa Bay area near a development project in recent years.